Week 7 - Return to Casey

Four scientists hold the last piece of the main ice core
Aurora Basin team members, including Mark Curran (right) hold the last section of the main 303 m ice core. (Photo: Mana Inoue)
Two Aurora Basin team members set up an automatic weather station.View looking up from a snow pit.An aerial view of the Aurora Basin camp.

On Wednesday 15th of January most of us left the Aurora Basin camp, with 11 of us heading back to Casey all at once. We packed most of the scientific equipment before we left but there are plenty more things to pack, such as polar pyramid tents, the processing tent, and the kitchen tent. The last four last people staying at the camp – Sharon, Mark, Jason and Bloo – will deal with this stuff

It was an adventurous trip back to Casey. Eleven of us were spread across two flights in the Basler and the twin otter. I was in the twin otter. When we took off, I looked at the Aurora Basin camp from the window. Many memories crossed my mind. It was a fantastic three weeks. The flight was nice and warm. We saw a round rainbow with a plane shadow in its centre. The Basler flew with the boxed ice cores so they couldn’t turn on the heater. They had a freezing two hours flight.

We saw Casey station clearly from the air. But we couldn’t land on the skiway because of fog. This is Antarctica; how rapidly the weather changes, how different the weather is even at a close distance! So the twin otter landed on Mitchell Peninsula skiway, and the Basler landed on Wilkins runway.

There was a hagglund waiting for us. We jumped on it and half an hour later we were at Casey. We arrived at Casey at 11 pm and the chef kindly made us some sandwiches. We had a nice warm shower, a proper toilet, and a warm bed after a few weeks in field. Unfortunately for the Basler people, they took more time to land at Wilkins and they had to stay overnight.

Now I’m sitting in a corner in Casey station, thinking of the rest of the people at Aurora Basin; Sharon, Mark, Jason and Bloo. I hope they make it back by Australia day.

I’d like to say a big thank you to all members up in the field, Mark, Sharon, Tas, Noel, Malcolm, Simon, Trevor, Jerome, David, Chunlei, JP, Andrew, Meredith, Jenny, Tonny, Joe, Wang, Bloo, Jason, Olivia, Nerilie, Holly, Chris, Olivier and Tessa; all the people who supported us from Casey, Kingston, Hobart and all over the world; and all friends and families back in home. Thank you very much for your support. Without your support, we couldn’t achieve our goals. I had an amazing, awesome, wonderful time at Aurora Basin. This experience is priceless and cannot be exchanged with anything else. And personally, a special thank you to Mark. I am very happy that I am your student.

Here is a summary of what we achieved, courtesy of our science leader Mark Curran (read Mark's 'project wrap-up'):

  • 303 m four-inch main core (drilled by Simon and Trevor using the Danish Hans Tausen drill system, dry head to 132 m, reamed, wet drilling (Estisol) from 132 m; logged by Mark and Meredith, with a cameo appearance by Jen.
  • 116 m three-inch shallow core (drilled primarily by Tas, with a few metres by Mark and Meredith using the Australian Eclipse drill system, and some expert advice from Trevor; logged by Tas, David, Jerome, Chunlei, Mark, Meredith and Nerilie.
  • 103 m four-inch shallow core (drilled primarily by Olivier, with help from Jason and Nerilie, using a combination drill of French and Danish components; logged primarily by Nerilie. Chips from each drill run were collected for Chunlei.
  • Firn air pumping, sampling and insitu SARA (CH4) and LICOR (CO2) analysis, in the three inch eclipse borehole by David and Jerome.
  • Drilling three 10 m Kovacs ice cores (for overlap with the main cores). Captained by Joe with Wang and Mana.
  • 2.5 m snow pit dug under difficult weather conditions and sampled for 10 different parameters, led by Holly with the team Olivia, Chris and Mana. A second pit was dug to allow backlit stratigraphy (Meredith, Olivia, and Holly).
  • Automatic Weather Station, erected primarily by Meredith, with assistance from a number of people.
  • All sites were located using accurate GPS by Jason. GPS base station erected by Andrew and Tas.
  • Core processing equipment setup by JP, Joe, Wang and Mana (including ECM, horizontal bandsaw, vertical bandsaw, laminar flow bench).
  • Core density measured on main core by JP, and the processing team (Olivia, Mana, Chris and Holly), and on the four inch shallow core by Nerilie and Jason.
  • Cores processed to 80 m led by Olivia and her team Mana, Chris and Holly, including all 'pie' subsampling, ECM, stratigraphy, AAD trace chemistry sticks scrapped, melted and refrozen, and Picarro samples prepared for 20 cm resolution stable isotopes.
  • Picarro setup by Andrew, and samples analysed by Andrew, Holly and Olivia, with expert advice from Olivia and Trevor.

I’d like to finish my blog with some words from Jerome (actually from his wife). Even while he had a hard time dealing with the problem of his precious machine SARA, he never got upset. He was always calm and smiling and he told us these words, which made our day: 'Do your best and always remember that life is beautiful'.

Mana Inoue is a PhD student at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperate Research Centre and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. She is working as a field assistant at Aurora Basin, cutting, scraping and analysing ice cores.